Fires almost double this year, 42 people died

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For the year so far, the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) has responded to a total of 1,347 fires, almost double the numbers when compared to the same period last year.

Comparatively, 771 fires were recorded between January and early September last year.

Further, a total of 42 people, including the 20 children who perished in the Mahdia school dormitory fire in May, died as a result of these fires. For this period last year, there were no deaths recorded.

This was disclosed by Fire Chief (ag) Gregory Wickham during an interview with the News Room on Thursday.

According to Wickham, investigators have found that majority of these fires are maliciously set.

“We have seen an increase generally in the number of fire calls… We understand by our investigative works some of it (the fires) are set because some people may have grievances and they choose fires as a mean to get back to each other.

“In those cases, once they are caught the Police would take the legal arm of instituting charges and then they are taken to court,” Wickham said.

Other causes of the fires are due to negligence and electrical issues.

To address the increase, Wickham told the News Room that the GFS has embarked on a massive campaign to ensure that the public is aware of the basic fire safety and prevention measures.

“We have been doing a whole lot to educate members of the public about fires… Supervision when you are going to be doing burning, don’t leave cooking unattended, if you are going to use electrical appliances do not overload them. We have been sending out a whole host of advisories,” Wickham said.

Fire Chief (ag), Gregory Wickham (Photo: DPI)

The government has also invested in ensuring that the GFS is equipped to effectively respond.

This, according to Wickham, allowed for the acquisition of several pieces of modern equipment added to the existing fleet.

“We would have gotten criticisms on many occasions going to fires. Once such that is very clear that you would hear people talking about is the fire truck turning up without water.

“That is not the case,” the acting Fire Chief said.

He added, “…We have the equipment. We have the tools, we have the firefighting gears to protect ourselves and we are using them to optimum level”.

And with “enough” human capacity, Wickham said firefighters are being continuously trained.

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